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Tortillas and Pupusa With Stuffing for a Delicious Meal, by Chef Nick

Stuffed Pupusa served with Curtido and Asparagus

Pupusas are a popular and traditional food from El Salvador.  A thick pancake is formed using corn meal, then stuffed and cooked on a hot griddle.  Typically, they are served with “Curtido”, a delicious  coleslaw.  They are easy to make and delicious to eat.

There are three components to a Pupusa.

  1. Pupusa Dough (This can also be used for tortillas)

  2. Filling

  3. Curtido Topping

Pupusa Dough is prepared using “Masa Harina”.

Masa Harina is a finely ground white or yellow corn meal that dates back over 5,000 years to the Aztecs and Mayans.  They discovered the benefit of soaking the corn kernels in limestone stream water, which made the kernels much easier to grind.  It turns out there are other benefits:

  1. The soaking in the alkaline lime stone stream water enhances the nutritional value of the corn meal by adding more calcium and magnesium and by making the niacin more bioavailable.

  2. Both the flavor and the aroma of the corn meal are improved.

  3. With the corn meal prepared this way, tasty pupusas and tortillas can be made without adding salt, butter, lard or oil!

 Pupusa Dough Recipe

Mixing the Pupusa Dough


  1. Masa Harina – 4 Cups

  2. Cold Water – 3 Cups

Slowly mix the Masa and water together while kneading the dough.  Knead the dough for about 5 ~ 10 minutes.  To test the dough texture,  form a dough patty in your hand about 1/3 inch thick.  If the edges of the patty are cracking, very gradually add a bit more water.  The dough should be soft and pliable.  It is very forgiving: a bit too much water, or not enough water, will still yield a tasty Pupusa.

Filling Recipes

Seasoned (hand rubbed) Roasted Peppers and Onions

Traditionally, Pupusas are stuffed with a combination of meats, cheeses, or beans.  Our Pupusas will be stuffed with a combination of cooked veggies, and beans.   Here is a list of wonderful fillings and their recipes that work well as Pupusa fillings.  Use only one or mix two or three together.   There are no right or wrong combinations.  The pupusas do not hold a lot of filling.  One and a half cups of fillings should be enough to stuff all the pupusas prepared from 4 cups of masa harina.

  1. Roasted Veggies 

  • Good vegetable choices would include Onions (red, white, green, or Spanish), Zucchini, Mushrooms, Eggplant, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Red, Yellow, Green Peppers. Sweet Potatoes (do not peel) and even Butternut Squash (peel first).  Cut the Veggies into a ½ inch approximate dice.

  • Season with garlic powder, onion powder, sage, paprika (or smoked paprika for a completely different flavor profile), and ground black pepper.  Rub the herbs and spices well into the veggies.

  • Roast at 400, for about 14 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown.   

  • Don’t get locked into the herbs and spices as shown in these recipes.  Almost any green leaf herb (dried or fresh) could be used in place of, or in combination with the sage.  Tarragon, Thyme, Basil, Cilantro, Oregano, Savory, would all work well. See what herbs and spices you enjoy!

2. Chopped Sun-Dried Tomatoes or Sun-Dried Peppers

3. Extra Firm Baked Tofu  

  • Chop into ¼ inch approximate dice

  • Toss them in a bowl with some cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, ground pepper, and a bit of white balsamic glaze.

  • Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown.

Seasoned Refried Beans

  1. Seasoned Refried Beans  A 15 oz can of refried black or pinto work well. Read the ingredients – they should be prepared with little or no fat, or sodium.  Put the refried beans into a mixing bowl and season with fresh cilantro, a pinch of dried cumin, finely minced fresh garlic, and a bit of ground black pepper.

  2. Seasoned Small Whole Beans are great in Pupusas.   It's easier to work with smaller beans, such as black, pinto, pigeon, or navy beans.  The larger beans, such as Fava and Kidney, tend to protrude through the dough.  Drain the beans, place in a bowl and season with cumin, paprika, garlic powder, cilantro and ground black pepper.

Curtado Recipe (El Salvadorian Style Coleslaw)

Curtado should be made a day or two in advance, to allow the flavors and unique textures to develop.  If that is not possible, not to worry!  It will still be delicious with only an hour or two marinating time.  The proportions of the ingredients are flexible.  Curtado will stay fresh if refrigerated for about a full week.


Ingredients for Curtado

(makes 8 generous portions)

  1. 1 pound very thinly sliced and cored cabbage. After it has been thinly sliced, massage it very well with your palms and fingers .  In the culinary world, this is known as “bruising.”  This step will facilitate the flavors entering the cabbage.  You will want to “bruise” the cabbage with your hands for a few minutes.

  2. 1 good size carrot shredded. Do not peel; you don't want to lose nutrients

  3. 1 half of a medium sized red onion, sliced very thin

  4. 1 small finely sliced (remove seeds) fresh Jalepeno pepper. If you enjoy a lot of heat in your food, leave the white veins in the pepper intact.  If you prefer a milder flavor, trim out the white veins.  If you prefer NO heat, just forget this ingredient.

  5. ½ of a Red Bell Pepper thinly Sliced

  6. 1 level tablespoon of Mexican oregano (it’s Ok to use regular oregano)

  7. ½ Teaspoon of Ground Black Pepper

  8. 1 or 2 cups of white vinegar.

Preparing the Curtido

  1. Put the vegetables and seasoning into a mixing bowl and toss well. Add one cup of vinegar and toss.   If it appears dry, continue adding more vinegar, until all the ingredients are moist.

  2. Put  the Curtido in an airtight container and store refrigerated until ready to use.

Preparing the Pupusas

  1. Have a small bowl of cold water nearby. When handling pupusa dough, your hands should be slightly moistened.  If not, the dough will stick and fall apart.

  2. Using slightly moistened hands, take a small ball of the pupusa dough (about 1.5 times the size of a golf ball) and roll it in your palms, till it forms a ball.

  3. Using your thumb, punch a whole midway through the ball of dough.

  4. Stuff the hole with your desired filling, or combination of fillings. A typical pupusa can handle a good size tablespoon full of filling.

Form a 2 ” ball and press a hole in the middle

  1. Pinch the pupusa closed using your hands. Gently pat the ball of filled dough, until it forms a ½ inch thick pancake, about 4 inches in diameter.  Don’t be alarmed if some of the filling peaks through to the surface of the pancake.  It will still work fine.  The more pupusas you make, the better you will get at stuffing and sealing the pupusas.  NOTE: make sure to cook and eat all your mistakes.  They may not look as pretty as a perfectly formed pupusa, but they will taste every bit as good.

  2. Place all your uncooked pupusas onto a large cookie pan or serving platter and get your skillet ready. Use a non-stick skillet or sauté pan.  Without adding any butter or oil, get your pan medium hot.  If you add a few drops of water to your pan, it should splatter and steam.  That’s how you can tell, your pan is now hot enough to cook the pupusas.

  3. Place one or more pupusas on the hot non-stick pan or skillet. Make sure to leave yourself enough room to flip the pupusas.   After a few minutes, slightly lift the pupusa with your spatula to check if it is browning.  If your pupusa has browned and is cooked, flip it over to cook and brown the other side.  Depending on the heat of your skillet or pan, your pupusas will require about 3~5 minutes on each side.

  4. Most likely you will not be able to cook all the pupusas in one pan all at the same time. Think of them like pancakes; that are prepared in several batches.   After you have cooked a skillet or pan full of pupusas, remove the pupusa and place them on a covered dish, keeping them warm in your oven.

  5. Once all your pupusas are prepared, and staying warm in the oven, you can get ready for the plate-up. Two to three pupusas make a good serving.  Transfer them from the oven to a dinner plate and cover them with a generous helping of Curtidos.  If the curtidos is too wet, use a slotted spoon to allow the extra vinegar to drain.

If you make too many Pupusas (should you be that lucky!), they freeze remarkably well.  Allow them to cool off, then wrap them individually in a plastic wrap or parchment paper.  Stack them and freeze them.  To reheat, put them into a toaster oven.

Tortilla – browned

Preparing Tortillas

Portion your Massa Harina dough into 2″ balls, press them between parchment paper ( the flat bottom of a pyrex dish works well for this task as you can press on the handles) or flatten in a tortilla press.  Cook them on a heated nonstick pan for 20 seconds, then flip it over and cook the other side for 20  seconds (this will help seal in the heat)  Flip it over again and cook for about 40 seconds, until the tortilla begins to puff up/bubble and brown marks form.  Flip it over once again, cook briefly until that side also has brown marks.

Fold this around the same delicious fillings you made for the Pupusas!  These are also great for encasing leftovers from other meals, such as stir fries or chili.



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